PRACTICING ADVENT AT HOME: BEING MORE PRESENT
This year at Salt House, we focus on the practice of MINDFULNESS and what it means to SHOW UP during Advent and Christmas. What does Christmas really look and feel like when we are truly PRESENT to ourselves, our families, our loss, and our joy? We’re calling it Christmas [Present] recognizing there are so many gifts for us to receive when we are present to our lives and the Presence of God.
FOUR SIMPLE WAYS TO BECOME MORE PRESENT
1. POWER DOWN
No one in the history of human kind has ever had the obstacles we have to being present. We carry our obstacles in our pockets now. Phones. Try using your phone less as you allow yourself to be less distracted and more present.
2. LIGHT CANDLES
Blue is the color of Advent: the color of hope, the color of the night sky as you wait for sunrise. The Advent wreath is made of four blue candles and one white one. Light one blue candle each week, adding one each Sunday as you go, watching the passage of time. The white candle is added on Christmas Eve.
On Sundays as you light a new candle, read the thematic devotion in this booklet (with whomever you are eating a meal). For the other nights of the week, light the same candle(s) from Sunday and pause to reflect on your day: what was your high, your low, listening for God’s presence in your days. Share those moments with those who share your table that night. In the darkness of winter, the growing light reminds us of God’s constant presence.
3. SAVOR THE STORY
Immerse yourself in the Christmas story, the unfolding of Jesus’ birth that is told in Luke’s gospel (Luke 1:26-2:20). Using the reading guide, read a few verses a day. Let this story seep into your present moment, holding how the story of God becoming human and showing up here among us informs our experience of the now, now. To remember that we can be present to the presence.
Become more present by meditating daily – even just a few minutes a day. Meditation is not trying turn off our thoughts or feelings. We’re learning to observe them without judgment. Try the app Headspace (also online at headspace.com), using their free 10 sessions, repeating as necessary.
Sunday, Nov. 26
Candle 1 – Hope
Extra materials: Small piece of paper for each person. Markers.
Introduction // The candle of this first week of Advent is a candle of hope. Today the flame of this candle reminds us of the hope that came to this world when Jesus was born and his presence with us. Jesus said, “I came so that everyone would have life, life in all its fullness.”
Light the candle // Listen for a moment to the hope that Jesus has given you this week. When have you seen the gift of hope this week? When have you known God’s rescue come into your life or life around you – in the big things or the small?
Share stories // Has anyone got a story of hope to share?
Prayer // We thank you Jesus that you want to bring fullness and hope into every life. We thank you for the hope you have brought to us. We bring to you now prayers of hope for the people and places on our hearts this morning. Trusting in your powerful name.
Intercession // Write or draw prayers of hope for a person, place, or situation on your heart and place it around the candle.
Nov. 27 // Luke 1:26-28 26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Nov. 28 // Luke 1:29-31 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to
her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You
will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.
Nov. 29 // Luke 1:33-34 32 He will be great and will be called the Son
of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” 34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
Nov. 30 // Luke 1:35-37 35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
Dec. 1 // Luke 1:38-40 38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. 39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.
Dec 2 // Luke 1:41-43 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
Sunday, Dec. 3
Candle 2 - Peace
Extra Materials: Leaf for each person (e.g. Eucalyptus or Bay).
Introduction // (Start with one candle lit). The candle of this second week of Advent is a candle of peace. Today the flame of this candle reminds us of the peace that Jesus brings into this world and his presence with us. Jesus said, “I give you peace, the kind of peace that only I can give. It isn’t like the peace that this world can give. So don’t be worried or afraid.”
Light the second candle // Listen for a moment to the peace that Jesus has given you this week. When have you felt the gift of peace this week? When have you known God’s presence driving out fear in your life or life around you – in the big things or the small?
Share stories // Has anyone got a story of peace to share?
Prayer // We thank you Jesus that you want to bring peace and freedom into every life. We thank you for the peace you have brought to us. We bring to you now prayers of peace for the people and places on our hearts this morning. Trusting in your powerful name.
Intercession // Pick up a leaf and pray peace for a person, place or situation on your heart and then place your leaf prayer around the candle.
Dec. 4 // Luke 1:44-45 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
Dec. 5 // Luke 1:46-51 46 And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord 47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name. 50 His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. 51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
Dec. 6 // Luke 1:52-53 52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble. 53 He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.
Dec. 7 // Luke 1:54-56 54 He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful 55 to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.” 56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.
Dec. 8 // Luke 1:57-58 57 When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.
Dec. 9 // Luke 1:59-60 59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60 but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.”
Sunday, Dec 10 Candle 3 - Joy 1 Thess. 5:16-24
Extra Materials: Confetti for each person.
Introduction // (Start with two candles lit). The candle of this third week of Advent is a candle of joy. Today the flame of this candle reminds us of the joy that Jesus brings into this world and his presence with us. Jesus said, “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.”
Light the third candle // Listen for a moment to the joy that Jesus has given you this week. When have you tasted the gift of joy this week? When have you known God’s provision, bringing happiness into your life or life around you – in the big things or the small?
Share stories // Has anyone got a story of joy to share?
Prayer // We thank you Jesus that you want to bring answers and joy into every life. We thank you for the joy you have brought to us. We bring to you now prayers of joy for the people and places on our hearts this morning. Trusting in your powerful name.
Intercession // Pick up some confetti and pray joy for a person, place or situation on your heart this morning then come and place your confetti prayers around the candle.
Dec. 11 // Luke 1:61-64 61 They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.” 62 Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63 He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God.
Dec. 12 // Luke 1:65-66 65 All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. 66 Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.
Dec. 13 // Luke 1:67-75 67 His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied: 68 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David 70 (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
71 salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us—
72 to show mercy to our ancestors and to remember his holy covenant,
73 the oath he swore to our father Abraham: 74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear
75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
Dec. 14 // Luke 1:76-77 76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, 77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins,
Dec.15 // Luke 1: 78-80 78 because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven 79 to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” 80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and
he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.
Dec. 16 // Luke 2:1-4 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register. 4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.
Sunday Dec. 17
Candle 4 - Love
Extra materials: Purple crepe streamers cut into ribbons. Markers.
Introduction // (Start with three candles lit). The candle of this fourth week of Advent is a candle of love. Today the flame of this candle reminds us of the love that came to this world when Jesus was born and his presence with us. Jesus said, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; remain in my love.”
Light the fourth candle // Listen for a moment to the love that Jesus has given you this week. When have you shared in the gift of love this week? When have you known God’s love come into your life or life around you – in the big things or the small?
Share stories // Has anyone got a story of love to share?
Prayer // We thank you Jesus that you want to bring love and relationship into every life. We thank you for the love you have brought to us. We bring to you now prayers of love for the people and places on our hearts this morning. Trusting in your powerful name.
Intercession // Write or draw your prayers of love for a person, place or situation on your heart this morning and place it around the candle.
Dec. 18 // Luke 2:5-7 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
Dec. 19 // Luke 2:8-9 8 And there were shepherds living out in the
fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of
the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone
around them, and they were terrified.
Dec. 20 // Luke 2:10-12 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be
afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you;
he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will
find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Dec. 21 // Luke 2:13-15 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
Dec. 22 // Luke 2:16-18 16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
Dec. 23 // Luke 2:19-20 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were
just as they had been told.
Sunday, Dec. 24 (Christmas Eve) Isaiah 61:1-4:8-11
1The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners (the blind), 2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called mighty oaks, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.
4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.
8 “For I, the LORD, love justice;
I hate robbery and wrongdoing.
In my faithfulness I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them.
9 Their descendants will be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples.
All who see them will acknowledge
that they are a people the LORD has blessed.”
10 I delight greatly in the LORD;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes
seeds to grow, so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.
Light the fifth candle.
Love is born! Merry Christmas!